Hello, and welcome to TacticalBreakfast's long awaited Mastery Priority Guide Update for Off-meta Units. Well, I guess there isn't much priority here given that these are off-meta units. These aren’t really Mastery suggestions either, so much as skill discussions. Well, it's a guide at any rate.
I want to clarify something straight away. I don't hate your favorite character. I don't hate any character, really (well… except Ch’alter). Jokes and snark aside, nothing in this guide is a personal attack on you or your favorite unit. Don't take anything here personally. I’m just trying to help the average player make informed decisions.
This article specifically covers the off-meta units, You can find the full version of the guide here, or on the banner below which covers all of the noteworthy Masteries in the game
FAQ and Discussion
Q: What took so long? Why weren't these included originally?
A: The answer goes way back to when this guide was only on Reddit, and the main reason I moved to Gamepress in the first place. Reddit just wasn't made to handle this sort of guide. I actually wanted to include every unit when I first made this, but the original guide was already a cumbersome thing. It could barely fit on Reddit with just the meta units. Cutting the off-meta units entirely just made the most sense.
Now that I am on Gamepress, this is much less of an issue. I have essentially unlimited space! I should have done this update shortly after joining GP, especially after the suggestions were integrated with the operator pages. But, you know, life gets busy and all of that.
Q: What do you mean by "off-meta"?
A: “Off-meta” doesn't really capture the full picture; however, it’s a useful expression, so I’m sticking with it. Essentially, it's any unit who just isn't good enough to be included in the main guide. These are units with low power levels or extremely niche uses that make it hard to justify the costs of promotion, let alone Mastery.
Of course, Arknights is a game where you can pretty easily build teams around "bad" units. There are no bad units, only bad Doctors, as the old adage goes. It’s an incorrect saying (this guide wouldn’t exist otherwise), but I digress.
Q: Why make this update?
A: One of the most common questions I get is "What about [Bad Unit]?" The motives are varied. Some people just don't understand why they're bad. Others are just trolling. But usually, someone has a legitimate question and wants advice regarding a unit that they personally like. Far be it from me to judge someone who wants to raise Savage. Hell, I have raised a fair few terrible units myself, and I’ve rarely regretted doing so.
This guide is for those people. Understand that you shouldn’t be raising any unit listed here if you want to be efficient with your resources (with a few exceptions). They lack grades in the original guide for a reason. However, I fully encourage you to embrace the off-meta when it comes to your favorite units, and I hope these write-ups help you at least make decent decisions within that context.
Q: Unit X doesn't deserve to be here! They are great and you're an idiot and here's a novel about why...
A: I don't care. Well, I mean, I do, because I like discussion and differing opinions. However, I've been playing since launch and I have about 3/4ths the roster E2'd and M3'd. I certainly don't know everything about Arknights, and there are a few units on the cusp of being grade worthy in here that may see eventual promotion, but I know enough to tell you that, sorry, your favorite unit probably does deserve to be here.
Don't let that discourage you. Use your favorite units and don't let articles like mine stop you from enjoying them. The goal here isn't to trash on your favorites, but to help people make efficient decisions. It's nothing personal.
Q: Will this guide be updated regularly?
A: Probably not. I don't expect this guide will get much traffic after its release. Really, the main purpose is to compile write-ups that will be going in the operator pages. It isn't meant to be an ongoing guide, though I'll probably remove old entries if someone gets promoted.
Q: Why are some of these write-ups written a bit weirdly?
A: These write-ups are ultimately intended for the operator pages, where they will need to stand without the context of the rest of this guide. This means each write-up has to convey all necessary information, including seemingly redundant things like the rationale behind their lack of grade or off-meta status. This is especially true in the 4★ section, where I essentially have to repeat the same basic idea a dozen times.
Editing provided by fourmana (Discord: fourmana#0477) of Team BethelFrankel, the team behind the premier Alchemy Stars Tier List. This update was a huge one, so big thanks to him!
Off-meta Mastery Suggestions
Vigil has the extremely dubious honor of being the only completely ungraded 6★ in this Mastery guide. His summon is weak, his already mediocre DPS is reliant on that weak summon, his DP generation is low, and his main skill has a horrific initial ramp-up. There is no meta justification for spending your resources on Vigil.
Should you opt to pursue him anyway, you could go with either S1 or S3. His S3, is his better DPS skill and will probably be more generally useful. If you only do one (or rather, insist on doing at least one), S3 is the one to go with. In good conditions it can even reach some respectable DPS. However a bad cycle time, low DP generation, a reliance on his weak wolves blocking, and an absolutely horrific initial activation time seriously hinder what would already be a fairly niche skill.
His S1, meanwhile, is better for DP generation owing to a relatively forgiving cycle, and renewing a wolf does work around one of his kits' major flaws. However, his DP generation is still pitiful compared to other commonly available Vanguards, and it’s his lowest DPS skill. It's something you should only pursue if you're insistent on using Vigil over better options.
Pass on his S2. While you might initially think that it would be a nice, consistent AFK DP generation skill, it doesn't actually trigger if the wolves haven't spent the previous activation. This makes its effective DP generation extremely unreliable.
Savage is one of the tougher units to make a suggestion for because her main flaw is her rarity. She is essentially a 4★ with 5★ costs. Her S1 is quite literally the 4★ version of the Power Strike skills. Even if you don’t have any of the better Centurions and wanted one, you should just use the much cheaper Estelle. However, if you are really insistent on using Savage, go with her S1. It’s way overpriced for its power, but it is a relatively rare “consistent” Centurion skill. Her S2 has way too high of an SP cost on an Attack Recovery skill for what it does (which isn’t much).
Among units that lack a Mastery grade, Silence is the best of the bunch. She isn't off-meta at all, really. Unfortunately, she has abysmal Mastery gains, on top of a terrible E2 promotion. The drone's healing is based on her level and not her skill, so an expensive 5★ Mastery gains you only a few seconds of cycle time. That will only matter if you're trying to do some very extreme stuff, so she is safe to leave at SL7.
Nightmare is a fairly interesting unit, but she is not only incredibly hard to use but also subpar even with optimal play. It's really tough to recommend either skill. Both have serious flaws which limit their viability. Her S2 is a DPS skill with a reasonable cycle time, but it is auto-activated and only catches units already in her range. That makes it incredibly hard to properly use, and worse still, the snare works against her damage.
Conversely, her S1 has pretty strong HPS, and it's something to consider if you favor more niche-style clears, as she is the only Caster who can heal. However, this niche has little value in the general game and the skill has an absurd SP cost. It's a matter of picking your poison with Nightmare, with the best option being to invest your resources elsewhere.
S1 does have an extremely strong breakpoint at M1. She gains an extra target which doubles her output. It's worth grabbing if you are raising Nightmare, even if you don't think you will use her S1 very often.
For an expensive offensive unit, Skyfire has truly atrocious DPS. She is a true illustration of all of the problems early AoE Casters faced, and unfortunately not much has been done since then to correct that. Even in the context of niche clears, her DPS is too low for her to have much value. If you did want to invest in her, the stun on her S2 is her best use and the Mastery gains across the skill are massive (weirdly, some of the best in the game). You shouldn't be investing in Skyfire, but her S2 Masteries are vitally important if you insist.
Istina lacks the utility of most Supporters. Her kit is really only her archetype slow and some mediocre damage. That mattered a bit more when class bans were more common and options were more limited, but it has little value in the current game. However, Istina is reasonably popular and still more than usable should you desire. Both of her skills have value, but I strongly favor her S1 for Mastery. It has higher DPS, total damage, and at M3, 100% uptime slow against one target. Of course, her S2 can hit three targets in a bigger range, so it has value as well. Her Module brings S2 to *almost* 100% uptime on the slow, but S1 remains the better skill for where you might actually use her, and doesn’t require a costly Module.
Sora was never a particularly good unit since her cycle time is RNG dependent, but she's only grown worse as the game has gone on. Crucially, Inspiration doesn’t stack with itself, meaning that she has to fight for her team slot with Heidi (better cycle time) and Skalter (better in every way). Even ignoring the competition, though, her overall attack buff is unimpressive. You should probably just bring another DPS. If you are intent on using Sora, S2M3 is pretty valuable due to a huge improvement on uptime. Skip her S1. Although it does have some niche usage, it has very poor Mastery gains.
Way back at launch, it used to be a matter of trivia that Franka didn't actually do True Damage. There just wasn't any place where that distinction mattered. Since then, real True Damage has grown in value, which hurts the already off-meta Franka. Her relatively low total damage and RNG component just don’t justify the “not-true-True-Damage” utility. Still, her S2 Masteries represent some important gains, both in damage, but also in the initial SP at M3, so if you're intent on using her, it is a Mastery worth considering.
Indra has a nice niche with her S2. It's a unique combination of very strong self sustain and Arts damage. However, her extremely long cycle time and low-stat one-block baseline makes her very tough to use once her initial skill cycle runs out. If you plan to regularly use Indra, consider her S1 as well. Her S2 will generally come out ahead, but S1 can add a nice measure of consistency in situations where S2’s cycle time is too long.
It can be easy to overlook the flaws of an archetype when the 6★s (Mudrock and Penance) are so absurdly powerful. Unfortunately for Vulcan, that inability to be healed sticks out much more when you account for high SP costs and no available sustain outside of those skills. It makes her tough to use and even tougher to recommend. She is certainly not for the faint of heart.
That said, if you wanted to raise her , it's usually best to go with her S2. The archetype lends itself more towards solo adventures rather than stalling, and, as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. With S2, Vulcan can dish out some solid damage in tandem with really strong sustain. This can be pretty decent with only 10 SP initial windup at M3, but once the skill is over, the base cycling is abysmal. Her S1 is also pretty good, but with such low killing potential, it's usually not worth using over similar options that can actually be healed, like the much cheaper Cuora.
You could really go with either skill for Croissant with the best option really depends on what you want out of her. She can be a very powerful pure Defender with S1M3, rivaling (and occasionally even beating) Hoshiguma and Nian while her skill is up. However, the fact that it’s auto-activation makes her less consistent, which is even worse when you consider that pure tanking is not a very valuable niche these days. Still, it's a good Mastery target if you want Croissant to be your regular mainline Defender. Mastery provides a big boost to her up-time and dodge chance, which is important when considering her consistency issues.
However if you're looking for something a bit more unique, consider her S2 instead. It has some pretty big Mastery gains including an important force increase at M3. There aren’t a ton of places where it’s especially useful, but it’s a very fun skill in the right spots.
Grani can be a pretty nice unit for VanguardKnights, but she has a tough time competing otherwise. Unfortunately for Grani, she is a victim of early design choices. Her S2 SP cost would be unthinkable on a modern kit. Despite that, S2 is still the obvious choice for Grani, but even then, the Mastery gains are pretty poor. Promotion should be considered a matter of personal desire only. Generally, the cheaper Vigna is far better for a role that's already pretty fringe, given her sky high attack and much better cycle time.
Despite her popularity as a character, Swire has always been a bad unit and she has only gotten worse as time has gone on. Her buff is minor, her skills have poor uptime, and she herself lacks much combat ability. Raising Swire is entirely a matter of personal desire, and even then she is hard to make regular use of. I speak from extensive personal experience here!
However, if you insist on trying anyway, stick with her S1. Although her S2 has a bigger buff and makes her a better combatant, 45 SP Attack Recovery is just too brutal to overcome. S1 may have less impact, but at least you'll be able to activate the skill at some point. Note that her level 3 Module upgrade does help resolve the charge time issues with S2, which then makes it the better choice for Mastery. But I would not recommend spending your limited Module resources on Swire. There's just too many better Modules to grab and Swire is extremely mediocre even when fully maxed out.
Original readers of the Mastery guide may remember a time when Glaucus had a Mastery grade. Honestly, that was probably a mistake even then. Bypassing class bans and roles just doesn't have much value outside of CC and she isn't strong enough to be useful there. That said, her S2 is a decent enough skill with a very long AoE bind and some very strong Mastery gains, so it's worth considering if you particularly favor the seaslug.
Early units frequently suffered from cruel balancing decisions, and Ceylon suffered even worse as a welfare unit. Even before wide range Medics and Resist were common, Ceylon was an extremely off meta choice. She just doesn't heal for enough and her best skill has a mind boggling SP cost. You really shouldn't be using Ceylon at all. There's just too many good Medic options these days, many of which are free. If you insist, go with her S2, which is at least decently impactful while active. True Ceylon lovers might find use in S1 as well thanks to a more consistent application when S2’s SP is just too much.
Astesia used to be in the main Mastery guide with solid grades, but her value has unfortunately plummeted since her release. Amiya's Guard form is superior to Astesia in most ways, and Amiya is free and must be raised to progress. That said, Astesia is a popular character and is still very viable. Her S2 is by far her better skill and it has pretty good Masteries to boot. In fact, it is almost strictly better than S1, which should only be Mastered for pure completionism.
Flamebringer is a historically contentious unit. He had an outsized, and often vocal fan base compared to other early off-meta units. That has waned with the game’s general power-creep, but in fairness, those fans had a point. While Flamebringer’s S2 is active, he can be a really good fighter with solid DPS and DPH. Unfortunately, a 40 SP Attack Recovery skill is very difficult to charge and he's a dead spot on the team while waiting for it. On many maps it won't end up activating at all without special planning. Still, if you can learn to work around it, S2 is his best skill.
You can also consider raising his S1 if you're intent on using him frequently. S2’s high SP cost is often prohibitive, and his S1 gives a healthy dose of self sustain and consistency. Note that he has a rather rare S1M2 breakpoint, which is the most important milestone for the skill. The M3 is much more of a luxury, even before considering cost.
Although Executor has some decent DPS while his skills are active, his total damage and cycle times are abysmal by modern standards. His skills also have alternating use-cases, which makes investment an expensive proposition. One doesn’t really stand above the other. This makes suggesting a Mastery really tough here, and honestly it's a coinflip. The best option is to raise Pinecone instead, but if you insist on using him, pick your poison since there isn’t a clear choice. I would lean towards S1 which has a lower DPS but a similar total damage, better cycle time, and higher damage per hit for dealing with armor.
Although Breeze has always been off-meta, and never suggested as a worthwhile red cert purchase, she's never been bad either. She has good numbers in a good archetype. She's just extremely costly for a pure healing Medic with no other utility. Both of her skills have drawbacks and both have pretty poor Mastery gains, which can make selection difficult. I'd suggest going with her S1 since her S2 has an absurdly long cycle and effectively limits much of her range, but again, the gains are poor enough that Mastery is not suggested, even if you use her.
Waai Fu's main value isn't in her combat skills, but rather her base ski- err, I mean to say, in being an extra Fast Redeploy body. Her skills are nowhere near as impactful as the similar rarity Projekt Red. Extra investment into Mastery just isn't necessary to use her. If you did want to go the extra mile though, her S2 is the better choice for the extra damage. While the rare and powerful ATK down on her S1 also has use, she doesn't have the stats to reliably get much damage out of it, even before accounting for her counterproductive talent.
Oh and in case the joke wasn’t clear, do not raise her for her base skill alone. It is never worthwhile.
The one thing Bison does well is tank, but there's a ton of units who can do the same and offer more utility. As a result, Bison is a matter of personal desire only, and you'll get much more value out of the cheaper Cuora or Bubble. If you insist, I'd suggest S2 for Mastery, which has the bigger impact between his skills, but do note that his one meta appearance in CC#8 involved his S1, due to its shorter windup. That's unlikely to be needed again, though, so invest with caution.
A more fringe use for Bison is helping ranged units survive an Aak S3 buff. There are much better options for this role, but they tend to be higher rarity or limited, so Bison can fill in if you lack those options. He will need S2M3 for this since the DEF buff doesn't increase until M3. However, that is a role that will appeal to very few people.
Poor Reed. She is an interesting and popular character with one of the best sprites in the game. She isn't even a bad unit, taken alone, but she is just constantly beaten down by the strength and utility of her competition. Even the 4★ Vigna is significantly better. The gap only grows bigger with the Module upgrades since Reed’s is a joke while her competition’s are amazing, and intrude on her lone useful niche! It makes investment in Reed really tough to recommend. If you are a true Soldier of Dublinn at heart though, then her S2 is the clear choice. There isn’t any reason to pursue S1 which is worse in nearly every way.
You should not be using Snowsant. Unfortunately for the destitute bird, Cliffheart and Gladiia are both better, and are both free to boot. If you insist though, stick with her S2. The improved range and longer slow are much more impactful, and her S1 is straight inferior to Cliffheart's S1 (higher SP cost) which already has only niche usage. That said, her S1 gets the typical force increase at M3 so if you were really intent on using Snowsant over better options, it’s still worth pursuing.
Hung’s main problems are stiff competition and Defensive Recovery on his main skill, but his reputation as a bad unit is unfair. While he is still off-meta compared to the other Guardians, he has some legitimately valuable niches using his S2 and its Masteries. At S2M3, he only needs 2 SP to activate, which makes him the most helidroppable Guardian. S2 also has a very rare (among Guardians) DEF buff, plus the fact he stops attacking makes him the best no-damage stall option. His S2 Masteries are vitally important to those due to the greatly reduced initial SP cost. However those niches are still of fringe usage, so most people should avoid investment, especially those more Story-oriented.
Sesa can trip people up at first, as many people discovered in the monthly IS#2 squad. But once you get the hang of it, he is a surprisingly solid unit. Paired with a good blocker, his S2 can not only dish out damage but also give a surprising amount of team support. That said, Sesa is still off-meta, and his Mastery gains aren't very special. His S2 is the obvious Mastery choice if you want one since his S1 is a generic skill with no particular use or niche.
Sideroca is a unit I've always considered to be underrated. Most people ignore her entirely but she brings decent Arts damage with tremendous sustain and is a very rare (and often useful) HP tank. There aren't many good HP tank options, with most prefering to bulk up directly on DEF or RES instead. It’s a strong niche, though still not terribly meta. While both of her skills have use, her S2 is largely better. It gives more total healing as well as more damage. S1 has its uses, but they are far less frequent, so Mastery is a secondary consideration on an already off-meta unit.
Asbestos used to be graded in the main guide, but she was always a fringe consideration. Her damage just isn't up to snuff these days. That said, her S2 is a good skill that benefits greatly from Mastery, and it’s incredibly important if you want to use her. Although the damage might not total up to much, the weird combination of stats and range she has is valuable, especially in various NicheKnights clears. Be sure to grab the breakpoint at M1 at the very least for extra range.
Some people consider Tsukinogi to be the worst unit in the game. They are incorrect. Sort of. She isn't very good, but she does at least have a niche since no other ranged unit has stealth reveal (Scene doesn't count since she needs to deploy her buggies). S1 is the skill with that niche, but Mastery is unnecessary for that role even before accounting for its poor Mastery gains.
At one point in history, Absinthe was considered a viable alternative to Amiya. She was popular and there weren't many good Caster options at the time. She's still decent, and has a surprising consistency that's rare for Core Casters, but there are now many better options, and Amiya is required to be raised for the story. As a result, raising Absinthe is a matter of personal preference only. Stick with her S1. Although her S2 can be useful, the HP restriction will often let full health enemies leak. The consistency of her S1 is far more valuable, despite the long windup.
Here's a fun fact: Ayerscarpe has the highest theoretical DPS in the game with his S2. Of course, it's totally impractical and will never be remotely viable, but it's at least a fun bit of trivia. That isn't really useful for a Mastery decision, but it does illustrate how his S2 is his more impactful skill; it's difficult to set up, but it has a lot of (cheesy) potential. You might consider his S1 for Mastery as well if you plan to make regular use out of him. His S1’s consistency is better found elsewhere, but it becomes appealing for die-hards on stages where S2 can’t be put to good use.
Folinic is one of those units with two valid skills that play to different niches, so the "correct" choice depends entirely on why you're raising her. Her S1 is her healing skill, and it's actually a pretty valuable one. That sort of absurd range is really rare. But pure healing has limited value overall and her S2 is her more unique niche, being one of only three (as of this writing) Medics who can deal damage. Folinic is far from a meta unit, so the choice of Mastery is ultimately up to why you chose to raise her in the first place.
Chiave is on the cusp of being promoted to the main guide. He finds a lot of niche usage among various gamestyles, however, he just doesn't have quite enough broad appeal given the strength of the Vanguard class in general. If you do play in those niches or personally favor him though, his S2 is by far the better skill and a pretty valuable Mastery. When paired with Bagpipe it gives him a quick activation burst, a strong debuff, and a rare way for Vanguards to deal with drones.
Note: Andreana was previously an ungraded unit. But she is now promoted to the main guide! A round of applause please for the Abyssal Weeb Cuttlefish. I apologize that it took this long. It should have been done a long time ago. I’m including her here in the off-meta guide update since that is when she was finally promoted and I don’t want people to be confused!
High damage per hit Physical damage is frequently the most valuable source of damage since it can overcome both high DEF and high RES, and it’s what Andreana excels at. There are few units who can hit as hard as Andreana does, even at higher rarities; it gives her a valuable niche despite her clunky targeting and HP Restriction. Of course, her half HP drawback is a doozy, so she is hardly a mandatory unit, especially on more meta teams. But even softening high threat targets can be extremely valuable, and with the growing strength of the Abyssal Hunter tribal thanks to Modules, Andreana is a viable consideration.
Tomimi has decent damage, but her restrictive range and RNG effects really hold her back, even before accounting for her competition. If you're willing to put up with these shortcomings, stick with S2. Mastery, importantly, eliminates the talent activation RNG, and the net damage and DPS end up being better than S1 regardless of variance.
There isn't much reason to use Flint. Her no-block niche can work alright in some cases, but those cases are rare, she scales really poorly with enemy DEF, and she's pretty pitiful when her skills aren't up. If, despite that, you still want to pursue her Masteries, go with her S2. Her S1 doesn't play to her niche at all and has very poor Mastery gains which improve neither the force or SP cost.
Aosta is a bad unit. You shouldn't be using him for any reason other than personal preference. Seriously, use Pinecone, or even Executor.
Okay, if you really insist, you could go either way with his skills, but I'd favor S1. It has slightly better DPS and significantly better total damage. You lose the bind on his S2, but his attack interval is so long that most enemies will just walk out of his range even with the bind.
Whislash is an off-meta unit. Instructors in general just aren't very strong, with middling combat abilities and clunky buffs. However, Whislash is fairly popular, so if you wanted to invest in her anyway, both skills are viable Mastery considerations. Lean towards S2 first which makes her a better combatant. S1 is the better buff skill, so it also has some use, but the Mastery gains on it are fairly poor.
Mystic Casters are a bit off-meta since they are fairly hard to use for only modest DPS. Their skills are often confusing too, like with Iris' S1. Theoretically, the short interval and restricted range lets her build a fully charged attack rapidly, but it’s very clunky in practice. Instead stick with her S2, which is far easier to use (the Sleep allows her to charge up) and offers big gains with Mastery.
Pure healing has limited value, but Tuye’s niche can actually be pretty useful. Her emergency healing on her S2 is large and the heal activates outside of her normal attack interval which can really save your bacon. It's her better skill, though Mastery gains on it are pretty poor. Her S1 does have some value as well, but it requires a lot of micromanagement that is unappealing for what it gives.
Lava the Purgatory
Grown up Lava still suffers from the core problems of the Splash Casters archetype, but she at least has some pretty good niches that make both of her skills viable considerations if you like her enough to overlook those flaws. Favor her S2 for Mastery. Although it can be difficult to set up and has somewhat low DPS, it does have a high total damage and can be helidropped to nice effect when the stars align. Many people prefer her S1 instead, which is more generally practical, but the Mastery gains on S1 are pretty poor, so spending the resources there doesn’t have as much value.
Blitz isn’t a particularly meta general-use operator, but his S1 has an absolute ton of value if you are interested in more Advanced content, and its Masteries are very important. S1 stuns everyone in a wide range for a long time on a very short cooldown, which makes him an important part of many stall strategies, despite only having four uses per deployment. Mastery is important to that role, improving pretty much every aspect of the skill, as well as making his first activation instantly helidroppable. Although Blitz is ungraded, his S1 Mastery is essential if you're interested in him or those strategies. His S2 is also noteworthy, though its uses are much less common.
Tachanka has the highest DPS in the game. He IS the meta! Well, not really, of course. His downtime is massive and his uptime is only 4 seconds, which means the total damage is very low compared to the DPS. He’s more of a novelty than anything, but if you throw a few buffs on him he can really tear into things. It's not usually the best solution, but it is a very fun one, and his S2 Mastery is very important to making it happen.
Camouflage is a very powerful effect, and Heavyrain is the only unit who can grant it to others. That niche isn't always useful or easy to use, so she is ungraded and off-meta, but it can be very fun when it is. Stick with her S2, as it better enables her niche. She’s a solid Protector as well with strong base DEF and HP, both of which are improved with her S2. The latter is quite rare across the whole game. It’s rather niche, but HP tanking is useful to have in reserve and there are very few skills that help with it.
Her S1 has better Mastery gains but is more for aggro management than stealth shenanigans, and aggro management is usually easier to solve by other means such as paying attention to your deploy order. It ends up being a much less valuable consideration.
Kirara is infamously one of the worst units in the game. Her damage is just too low to justify her supposed niche (which is already questionable). Her S1 suffers from her archetype's long attack interval, so even the consistency it can provide is lost. On the other hand, her S2 has far too high of an SP cost for the damage it deals. Since neither skill works all that well, it’s hard to make a Mastery suggestion. If you are still intent on raising her, I ultimately would lean towards S2, which is at least reliable when you need it. Just be aware that Kirara is one of the most 'desire only' units out there.
Corroserum is an unfortunate unit. His damage is too low to justify investment, and his niche beyond damage is better found elsewhere. There is not much reason at all to raise him, though if you wanted to raise him for personal reasons you could go either way for his skills. His S1 has a higher damage output, but his S2 plays to his theoretical niche (small as it is) better, so pick your poison.
I spent a lot of time debating whether or not Wild Mane deserves a full-fledged grade or not. She has some really useful niches with her skills; her S2 in particular has an extended reach, can stall lighter units, and interrupt heavier ones. However, her Mastery gains are pretty poor, so even within her narrow niches, it's hard to justify the extra cost of Mastery.
Aurora’s entire archetype is in a pretty tough spot. A one-block elite-killer just doesn’t have much value in the current metagame, especially when considering that many recent mechanics favor not blocking at all. Aurora can certainly be an impressive stat stick, but she is difficult to set up and frequently useless, which leaves her quite off-meta. Masteries aren’t too vital to her usage either, though they do look a bit more impressive when she is combo’d with other Chillers. Her S1 has some very fringe value as well due to the extreme defensive bulk on a short wind-up, but situations where that is necessary are extremely rare.
Shalem's main problem is consistency. S2 is the better skill, but Defensive Recovery skills are always tough and the RNG component of both his skill and his talent can make him tough to use. Most people shouldn't raise Shalem, even within the context of IS2, but if you did want to, his S2 has pretty important Masteries that he needs to be effective. If you're using him regularly, consider S1 as well for better consistency.
NCD is best left in the base for her base skill or on the assistant screen for her beautiful art, because she isn't very effective on the field. If you really wanted to, I would lean towards her S1 which makes her a modestly effective healer. However, since her archetype doesn't heal while skills aren't active, the SP cost can feel like it takes forever. Her S2 might be occasionally useful, but Shelter is just not a significant factor in the game, and Mastery doesn't notably improve the skill's usability.
Heidi is an interesting unit that will appeal to the more creative types, but her Inspire buff isn’t strong enough to justify the investment for most, not to mention that it doesn’t stack with the far better Skalter. That leaves her ungraded and purely a matter of desire. If you did want to raise her, stick with her S1 first. Aside from ATK generally being more valuable, it does have some competitive numbers for the role and it has some unique niches with its 0-block and its extremely fast initial activation and likewise fast cycle time. Her S2 has uses as well, but is far more niche.
With poor numbers, a completely unnecessary restriction, and a gimmicky kit (in the bad way), there really isn't any reason to raise or use Windflit. Even if you were dedicated to raising him, it isn't easy to make a suggestion since his skills are so poor. Forced to pick, I would probably go with S1. Artificer stats are decent, so he can be a serviceable blocker with some AoE damage in a pinch. Also, the Mastery gains on his S2 are just atrocious, with less than 5% gain on his buff and no improvement to either uptime or cycle time, so Mastery is unnecessary even if you want to try to use him as a buffer.
On paper, it would appear that Erato slots nicely into sleep stall comps, but in practice she doesn't really fit into many of them. Her S1 is Single Target while the meta sleep stall options are all AoE. That ST nature can still be useful, especially thanks to her range, but tends to be much more niche. Most importantly for Masteries though, there is no improvement to the sleep uptime at all after SL7. The expensive S1 Masteries only add some damage, which is not why the skill is used. Erato does have some decent meta value with her S1, especially in IS#3, however the extra investment is almost completely unnecessary.
If you would like to use Erato regularly you could consider S2. There are much better DPS options out there, but it is certainly a usable option for when her Sleep niche is unnecessary.
Czerny has a few uses if you like niche clears, but in the broader game he’s difficult to use for a mediocre payoff. If you want to raise him anyway, his S2 is the better option for Mastery. HP tanks are somewhat rare and there are few that can reach Czerny's total. The nuke is difficult to control but at least does decent damage. His S1 ultimately only offers improved RES, since his personal DPS is too low and his reflect too conditional. That might have some value now and then to some people, but RES tanks are just not that viable, so most shouldn't bother.
Hibiscus the Purifier
Hibiscus' alter is a nice idea, but her kit ends up leaving her neither as a reliable healer nor anything special as a damage dealer. In the context of the broader game, her hybrid role doesn't have anywhere near the value that standard single-role units have. While her HPS is actually pretty good thanks to the lower attack interval, she can't heal without attacking, her healing is reduced by enemy RES, and she lacks the typical utility that make the meta Medic options so good. Meanwhile, her Arts damage is also pretty decent, but only for a 5★, and that isn't a terribly high bar.
Her S2 is the better Mastery choice overall, with better burst, Slow, and multi-targeting. However in addition to the drawbacks of her base kit, the gains on Mastery are also somewhat unimpressive. It only gains a single second of cycle time, and the Slow isn't strong enough to be a good selling point of the skill. Thus Hibiscus ultimately remains ungraded, but just barely. She is still quite usable and will find value on many niche teams.
Within the very crowded realm of 5★ Casters, Minimalist does have a niche. There are not many "consistent" Caster skills at the 4★ or 5★ rarity, such as with his S2. That does have *some* value, especially if you favor niche clears. However, it’s not enough for him to pick-up a grade. He ultimately has pretty low damage in an already crowded class of units and the Mech-Accord archetype is not well suited for that consistency role.
If you are raising him anyway, he has a rare breakpoint at S2M2 due to the reduced SP cost. The much more expensive M3 is only a small damage improvement.
Greyy the Lightningbearer
While many Niche players may find decent value in Greyy due to his wide range Slow and Arts damage, his kit ends up being both weak and frustrating for most. The Flinger archetype is flawed to begin with, and Greyy’s poor damage and low-chance RNG component to his control mean that he is largely more trouble than he is worth.
Should you be one of those niche players, or simply find Greyy an appealing unit despite his flaws, you will probably want to stick with S2 Mastery, which has better odds on his control uptime, and decent gains. Be especially wary of him in IS. Many popular relics don't affect his lightning ball, you don't want RNG to end your run, and the archetype lacks the flexibility you typically need from a Sniper ticket.
Paprika's archetype is an odd one. While on occasion it can be useful to reach out further than the normal range, in a large majority of cases a Chain Healer will just be worse than an AoE healer. Add on the fact that Paprika has no utility to speak of beyond healing, she becomes really tough to recommend. Her one saving grace, at least, is a fairly high amount of healing-per-second (HPS), but that is almost never worth the investment and multiple other 5★ Medics have her beat along with better utility. If you are looking to raise her anyway, the best skill is sort of a toss up. The improved trigger at S2M3 makes her healing numbers more reliable and the extra bounce will allow her to reach out of her range further. However the improved speed at S1 will allow her to better cover more units within her own range if they aren't close together and generally has better total healing if it can reliably trigger her Talent. Pick your poison here, but I would ultimately suggest her S2 since being able to reach out of her range is at least a unique aspect compared to other Medics.
Dagda is not a unit you should be investing in. There just isn't any value in a one-block, low Physical attack, single-target unit. Her S2 DPS actually isn't terrible on paper, but enemies of any consequence that she'd be useful against are far and few between. If you plan to raise her anyway, S2 is the obvious choice. It does have decent DPS, a decent cycle, and hits a bit harder than most other Brawler skills. Meanwhile, her S1 being Defensive Recovery kills any potential value it might have (except for meme combos with Blemishine). However, even her S2 Mastery gains are fairly paltry, so invest here with extreme caution.
Wind Chimes is a design failure, suffering from the worst of multiple worlds. Her archetype is incredibly fragile without offering much upside, and her rarity often suffers from being undertuned for the price. The result is a nearly unusable unit, featuring low damage, low survivability, and negligible utility. If you have an affinity for promoting awful units, I'd suggest going with her S1 despite being a basic Attack Strengthening skill. The damage and "utility" on her S2 is just so brutally undertuned that her S1, which at least has a good cycle, will outperform it a majority of the time. However, while extremely undertuned, her S2 is the more unique option, so the choice really depends on why you’re promoting her in the first place.
Like many 4★s, Courier is not a bad unit despite lacking a Mastery grade. However, his role does not require extra investment, either. Most players won't get any value out of him beyond a mid-to-high level E1 with SL7, so extra investment is purely a luxury. If you do want to go that extra mile, S2 is the obvious choice.
Like many 4★s, Scavenger is not a bad unit despite lacking a Mastery grade. However, her role does not require extra investment, either. Most players won't get any value out of her beyond a mid-to-high level E1 with SL7, so extra investment is purely a luxury. If you do want to go that extra mile, S2 is the obvious choice.
Myrrh is not the best low rarity Medic, so there isn't a lot of meta reason to use her beyond the early stages of your career, let alone go the extra distance for Masteries. Stick with Sussuro and Perfumer instead, with the cheaper Ansel as backup. If you do want to invest in her Masteries, stick with her S2, which is more impactful despite its longer SP cycle. Her S1 is an alright skill, and has a breakpoint at M1, but lacks value after that.
Gavial is not the best low rarity Medic option, so there isn't much reason to use her beyond the early stages of your career, let alone go the extra distance for Masteries. Stick with Sussuro and Perfumer instead, with the cheaper Ansel as backup. If you must, she can make a decent emergency Medic. Go with her S1 in this case. While these guides typically favor burst skills, her S2 is really nothing special even when her talent is active.
Like many 4★s, Haze is not a bad unit despite lacking a Mastery grade. However, her role does not require extra investment, either. Most players won't get any value out of her beyond a mid-to-high level E1 with SL7, so extra investment is purely a luxury. Even if you lack higher-rarity options, Click is the better low-rarity choice. However, if you do want to go that extra mile with Haze, S2 is the obvious choice with much higher DPS than S1 and an easy to work around drawback.
Like many 4★s, Gitano is not a bad unit despite lacking a Mastery grade. However, her role does not require extra investment, either. Most players won't get any value out of her beyond a mid-to-high level E1 with SL7, so extra investment is purely a luxury. If you do want to go that extra mile, S2 is the better choice. Despite its brutal SP cost, the extra range and true AoE damage is the far bigger benefit, especially in the early going when Gitano is most useful.
Meteor has a surprising amount of long term value thanks to her S1 which consistently applies a fairly rare DEF debuff. However, Mastery still isn't suggested outside of personal desire since it does not improve the SP cost or duration, which are the relevant portions of the skill in mid- to late-game content. Even for her longer term value, Meteor is fine to leave at E1, if you even raise her at all.
Pretty much everyone will have raised and used Jessica at some point. Like most 4★s, it isn't necessary to raise her beyond E1. Despite the lower costs of her rarity, the benefits just aren't there for the role she serves. However, Jessica is a popular character and has two pretty decent skills for Mastery consideration, should you want to push her forward. Her S1 is the more consistent option, with a very nice boost at M3. On the other hand, her S2 is more unique, and lets her play deeper into high risk situations (with some luck) and Mastery brings some solid improvements to both her damage and cycle time.
To be polite, Earthspirit is a rough unit. She needs full Mastery and Module level 3 just to reach 100% Slow uptime, which is an enormous investment cost considering she deals no damage while slowing. Use Ethan instead for your low rarity stalling needs. If you absolutely insist, go with S2, but she's the sort of unit that if you're raising, you're beyond my advice already.
If you're using Dobermann, you probably don't need my advice. Just in case, though, you shouldn't be using her. Her buff only works on already weak units, and there are better standalone fighters. If you insist, the best skill option depends on what you're doing; S2 for the 3★ meme comps and S1 for her own DPS.
Estelle is a strong unit in a strong archetype. However, like all Centurions, she really needs E2 for the extra block count. Even though 4★s are comparatively inexpensive to promote, that's still a significant chunk of resources that are usually better invested elsewhere, especially for those newer players most likely to still find her useful. That keeps Estelle in the off-meta category. If you did want to invest into her anyway, S2 is the better choice. The higher Attack multiplier helps her punch through tougher enemies and kill quicker, both of which help her self-sustain despite the skill's drawback, and Mastery on S2 represents a well above average gain in Attack.
Like many 4★s, Vermeil is not a bad unit despite lacking a Mastery grade. In fact, I would say she is the second best low-rarity Marksman Sniper in the game after May. However, her role doesn’t require extra investment either. Most players won't get any value out of her beyond a mid-to-high level E1, so extra investment is purely a matter of personal desire. That said, S2 is her better skill and the Mastery gains over her cycle time end up being pretty good for the cost.
Beehunter’s low brawler stats make her a pretty poor fighter and unworthy of investment outside of personal desire. While her S2 offers a notable DPS increase, it tapers off quickly against harder targets. Stick instead with her more useful and unique niche as a 100% uptime dodge tank using S1, with Mastery adding a good bit of consistency.
Matoimaru's massive HP pool is one of the best in the game, which is quite impressive for a 4★. She is still quite a bit off-meta, but that at least gives her some valid and useful niches, should you want to raise her up anyway. In such a case, both of her skills are potential Mastery targets. Both have differing niches and very strong gains. Her S1 is a strong self sustain skill which directly contributes to her HP tanking abilities, while her S2 is a decent (for a 1-block 4★) DPS skill. Most players shouldn't bother raising Matoimaru, but those who do will want the full M6.
Cuora is a powerful 4★, but like most 4★s, investment beyond E1 is unnecessary for the role she fills. However, I'd bet Cuora has the highest E2 rate among any off-meta 4★, since the pure blocking niche tends to be one of the last that people move on from and most people rely on her for that role early on. There's nothing wrong with that either. While the extra investment in Cuora may be unnecessary, she’s still excellent. Should you want to go that extra mile with Cuora, her S2 is the obvious choice with some very strong Mastery gains. The boost to her HP regen at M3 is especially valuable.
RES tanks like Matterhorn are quite rare, so he has a pretty strong niche simply due to the lack of competition. However, that niche isn't frequently relevant, and Nightingale solves the problem much better, so investment in Matterhorn is unnecessary. If you do personally like Matterhorn though and want that extra investment, his S2 is the clear choice since it plays to that niche and has some very solid gains.
You really really really shouldn't be using Greyy. He's one of the worst units in the game. Among the low rarity Casters, Gitano, Pudding, and Click are all far better options. Even if you like him, just wait for his alter form instead which is actually useful. If you *really* insist, go for his S2 for Mastery. Along with Module 3 (also not recommended), S2M3 can get up to 100% uptime slow in his AoE area.
Dur-nar is a really useful unit for her rarity. The AoE Arts damage on a long duration skill is very useful, and rather uncommon to boot. However, Dur-Nar really doesn’t really need extra investment to do that, so like most 4★s, the promotions beyond E1 are a luxury. S2 is the clear choice if you wanted to push her beyond that; it represents some pretty decent gains.
Pure healing Medics have relatively limited value, and the marginal utility that Purestream offers is nothing special, so investing in her is a luxury. Stick with Sussuro and Perfumer for your low rarity Medic needs, with Ansel as backup. If you really want, though, Purestream has some pretty impressive healing numbers for her rarity, especially with her Module. In that case, both skills are viable options for Mastery with differing situations they excel in. Favor S1 first which has more important Mastery gains. Her S2 is a better burst skill, with an HPS that rivals higher rarity units, but the Mastery gains are less important.
Conviction is an April Fools unit. The big slaps on her S1 can be intensely amusing but are far too inconsistent for regular use, so investment is most certainly a luxury. If you are looking for a little fun though, go with S1. It has more important Mastery gains, a ludicrously massive damage multiplier, and won't destroy your team half the time in the process.
Aciddrop's niche can be useful if you're doing more meme-y or niche clears, where you often lack the better options, but her damage is just too low for general gameplay when so many better options exist. If you want to play around with her though, her S2 has far higher damage and is the much better target for Mastery since the double hits synergize with her talent.
Bubble is less popular than the more readily available Cuora, who she largely overlaps with and who already has no Mastery grade. However, she can actually be even tankier than Cuora thanks to her talent. That won't be useful to many people, but if you are one of those rare few who like Bubble enough to justify the extra investment, her S2 is the obvious choice for Mastery.
Jackie is an alternative to the already weak Beehunter, trading uptime for a higher dodge chance and some damage. That niche is both hard to use and extremely small; furthermore, Jackie has the usual struggles that most lower-rarity Brawlers do. You shouldn't be investing in her, but if you must, her S2 is the better choice.
Note: This unit does not have Mastery grades. This means the unit is generally not one worth spending the resources of Mastery on. However this write-up should help with skill selection, should you want to use the unit regardless.
Although Artificers have decent stats, their skills often don't do enough to make them especially impressive melee fighters, which is the case with Roberta's S1. Go instead with her S2, which is far more useful. It makes her a much better staller, but more importantly, it renews her devices, which are the actually useful part of her kit. The Mastery gains are pretty poor though and it is often faster to just redeploy her completely due to the long cycle time. Even if you are interested in her kit, you'll be fine using her at SL7 most of the time.
Chestnut can be a decent Medic since the archetype is strong by default, but he has two fatal flaws. For one, he pales in comparison to Mulberry and Honeyberry (who everyone has access to). For two, both of his skills are very limited. His S1 is a mediocre skill in isolation, with a middling utility and a lot of micromanagement required to maximize. And while his S2 has better effects, the range restriction removes one of the biggest advantages of the archetype. Activating S2 can frequently hurt more than it helps! Most people should not spend the resources to Master either of his skills, though if you are especially intent on using him, you will likely find some use in both.
The first Crusher (and the second) miss the mark on design pretty hard. While Quartz may appear to be an HP tank, a complete lack of DEF or RES eliminates most scenarios that would actually be useful. She is, instead, incredibly fragile, and doesn’t even have the DPS to make up for it. Even fully maximized, her DPS is very low, although the stun on her S2 at least provides some decent control. Pass on her S1, which has worse DPS and will only outperform S2 against high DEF enemies that Quartz is unlikely to survive against anyway.
The correct priority decision with Crushers is to promote a Centurion instead. You will get much more value out of Estelle than you will out of Quartz.
The Grading System
Story vs Advanced vs Roguelike
There are very few absolute answers when it comes to prioritizing upgrades. A major determining factor is what exactly your goals are. Now, there are actually many more types of players than these three, but the most obvious delineation as far as which Masteries to think about comes down to the type of content you're most interested in clearing. If you only find value in first time story clears and risk 18 CC, then your goals will be different for someone looking to reach high-risk (25+) in CC.
Story - A story player is a player who is only interest in rewarded content. This means all normal stages and challenge modes (without added personal challenges), risk 8 on CC daily stages, and risk 18 on CC permanent stages
Advanced - An advanced player here is any player interested in non-reward topics such as higher risk CC and more min-maxed gameplay or specialty clears.
A note on the topic of the Advanced grades is that these grades should not be taken as specific advice for a specific CC. There may be an occasional specific note to provide some context or example, but the intention here is to be more general than a particular event and prioritize skills that will be broadly useful in multiple scenarios. A skill appearing once in a high-risk CC is not enough for inclusion here as CCs tend to lend themselves to niche scenarios that can't really be planned for. Further still, Advanced grades encompass all min/maxed gameplay and do not, strictly speaking, have to be about CCs.
Roguelike - These grades are specific to the Integrated Strategies game mode (aka, the Roguelike mode or IS#2). These grades are slightly different compared to the Story vs Advanced delineation since the same sort of pressures apply in the mode regardless of the type of player you are. These grades tend to be more "meta" focused than the others. For a lengthier discussion on why this is, please check out the main Roguelike mastery guide linked below. I've excluded most of the discussion from the main guide, simply because this guide is already long enough as it is.
Additionally, please check out the main Roguelike guide for more in-depth operator specific discussions specific to that mode. Although I have updated most write-ups in this guide to reflect all of the grades, some of the nuance on the best picks won't come across as well here, and the main Roguelike guide will provide a better analysis of who is a strong pick.
S - These Masteries are the cream of the crop. They are Masteries that everyone with the unit should do and give a high priority to. Units with S tier Masteries get an outsized value from them, either because the skill is incredibly powerful or because it changes how the unit is used. For the Roguelike mode, S-tier grades are reserved for the best skills on the most meta of units (whereas meta value is not necessarily a requirement in other mode grades).
A - These Masteries are powerful Skills that most players who have the unit should do. These are among the most powerful Masteries in the game, but less overtly overpowered than the S-tier Masteries.
B - These Masteries are reasonably powerful and worthy of consideration, but have a factor which hold them back. The impact may be relatively small for the cost, the unit may not be especially powerful already, the unit may not fit well into the meta, or there may be a better version available, among other examples.
C - These Masteries are strong enough to be noted, but should only be done by the most end game of players with nothing else to do. There's value in them, but most players will have something better to be doing.
Breakpoint - Not a true grade, but a designator given to an M1 that gives an unusually large benefit. In most cases, these should be prioritized immediately after the E2, thanks to their low cost and high value. Note that there are many M2 and M3 breakpoints but they are not considered breakpoints for this purpose as the cost is much more expensive. Also note that some breakpoints on valueless skills are excluded as well.
NG or None - Not a true grade, but these are sometimes used for Skills which are noteworthy but not worth Mastery. Either the skill or unit is not worth using, or the Mastery has very poor Mastery gains. NG stands for "No Grade".
Please remember all rankings here are considered independent of E2 priority, but do consider overall unit strength. And most importantly, these grades should be treated as guidelines rather than absolute requirements.